David Braben talks Kickstarter, Raspberry Pi – and Elite: Dangerous

The creator of Elite chats about his upcoming sequel, and the hurdles of crowdfunding

David Braben created the open-world game with Elite. And he did it in 1984, with 22KB of memory to play with.

More recently, he's served as a trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, helping to bring the educational mini-computer to life. And his studio Frontier Developments is beavering away on Elite: Dangerous, a multiplayer sequel to the original game – which has raised over £2m through crowdfunding.

We cornered him for a chat about the upcoming game, Raspberry Pi – and Kickstarter.

What's the current status of Elite: Dangerous?

Well, the game's coming together – there are so many different moving parts to get working, but it is coming together and we're very excited by it.

One of the big requests from fans is for populated, living planets

We have planets in it – you can fly your spaceship down to the surface, get out, walk around, get back in and fly off. That will come. We will do it properly with time, it just won't be there on day one. There is so much game even without that, it's untrue. And when that comes, there will be even more game!

People seem to want the Earth. Literally

People want everything! They want to be able to hunt dinosaurs in the wild, and see alien creatures flying around on Jupiter. It's a big job – and I would rather we do it properly, gradually, than do it all on day one. Because day one wouldn't come!

More after the break...

What d'you think of big brands using Kickstarter as a proof of concept?

The problem is, when people say that they want something, there's a difficulty in determining how broad that vocal group is, how many people actually want it.

I think it's an acceptable way forward; it would probably be better if people made that clearer, what the purpose of going for it is. I think there's some negativity because it's seen as depriving others from the flow of Kickstarter revenue – but that implies that the people who are contributing to a Kickstarter would have contributed to a different Kickstarter had they not contributed to this one.

What are your thoughts on the next-gen consoles opening up their platforms to indies?

One of the things that frustrates me is that a lot of indie games are "Triple-A" – I mean, the term "Triple-A has been so abused to essentially mean Call of Duty. Even the term "indie game," you know… is Frontier an indie? Technically speaking, we're independent, but we're a big company. I think arguably we are, but in a lot of the mindset of this, where you're talking about two or three people working out of a back bedroom – which obviously I was once – maybe we're not indie any more in that sense.

But I think that the principle of what they're doing is, they're opening it up to new games. And I think that's a tacit admission that it was to an extent closed to new ideas, it was harder to get new ideas through up to that point.

How can Raspberry Pi reach the "lost generation of tech," who've been consumers of gadgets, not creators?

I think it's a challenge. The way we came at Raspberry Pi, was actually to create the ability for people to self-learn – and that wasn't restricted to children. I don't think we've got all the materials ready yet, but we're on a path, and they're getting better by the day. It's a difficult hill to climb, but hopefully we can catch those people.

One of the advantages with children is, because there's organised education and because the kids have a lot more time to learn, they're actually a good target, for want of a better term. So it's really about providing a means for people to educate themselves, and anyone who cares enough about it hopefully would come along and participate.

Part of the impetus behind Raspberry Pi was the way in which modern computers are virtually closed down. And the problem is, they're virtually closed down for sensible reasons – the reason companies close their machines down is so that they're easier to use, so that there are fewer viruses. They're more useable as a commodity, but ironically it's created a space for things like Raspberry Pi, that let it all hang out, if you see what I mean.

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